One of the most confusing things about getting ready for your first horse show is figuring out what to wear. As a rider or a parent of a rider, stepping into a tack store without guidance of what to purchase is like walking into a mirror maze. So many colors, brands, fits, styles, price ranges, and options makes it almost entirely impossible to pick out an appropriate outfit on your own. As a trainer, being told that your student has appropriate show attire and then watching them walk up to the ring in clothes that don’t suit the situation is extremely frustrating. You don’t want to be mean and you don’t want to make them feel bad, but in the very subjective sport of hunters and equitation, you absolutely must dress the part. As bad as it sounds, what you’re wearing can dictate your placing at the end of your class.
But have no fear! I am here to help. In this blog, I’ll help point you in the right direction and help you dress to impress! Of course, the best way to know what is appropriate according to your trainer is to ask for their assistance. Communication is key! However, here is a run down on the best way to dress for hunters, equitation, and even jumpers, along with some suggestions on brands.
Show hunters are based on tradition of the hunt field, with some improvements made for practicality and style. The key is to dress traditionally. No bling, bright colors, or other distracting adornments are appropriate.
Helmet: Black helmets are most common, but some people switch it up with navy or brown. Brown helmets look really cute on kids in jods with brown boots, garters, and gloves. However, the most common and popular are black helmets. Some of the most popular brands for hunters are Samshield, Charles Owen, and OneK.
Hope Glynn in a Samshield.
Show Coat: Show coats for hunters should be very classic. Navy blue is most popular, but hunter green is very trendy right now as well. Some jackets with adornments on the collar or cuffs have come into style, but I personally prefer a more traditional look because you know that it won’t go out of style! Hunter show coats should fit well, with the cuff hitting just at the wrist bone when arms are bent in a riding position, and the tails of the jacket should hit about halfway down the bum without getting stuck under the seat while sitting in the saddle. Show coats that are too big or too long look frumpy and not put together. Fit is very important! My favorite coats are Grand Prix and RJ Classics.
Pony Finals model line showing navy as the most popular color.
Show Shirts: Show shirts are where we get to have some fun! I prefer that shirts be white, although very pale colors are permitted. On the inside of the collars and cuffs, patterns are very popular and are totally appropriate. Snap collars and magnetic collars are most popular right now. Stock pins are a no-no, as they’re both out of style and have been discovered to be potentially dangerous in a fall. A big style right now is to have shirts with different colors that cannot be seen when under a show coat, which is super cute as long as you know you will not be showing without a jacket! If there’s a chance that jackets will be waived, stick to traditional white. Long sleeve is necessary, and the sleeve should poke out a little bit underneath the jacket. My favorite brand is Romfh of course, and Essex, RJ Classics, Le Fash, and F.O.A.L all make cute shirts as well.
Breeches or Jodhpurs: Breeches and jods must be tan, or rust can be cute on the right horse or pony during the fall months. Tan is the go-to, though, always. Euro seat is most popular as it gives the best fit, and breeches and jods must be knee patch and not full seat. Breeches are to be worn with tall boots, and jods are to be worn with paddock boots and garter straps. If wearing jods, you must have garters, and they must be the same color as your paddock boots. Jodhpurs are cuffed at the bottom with elastic stirrups, and breeches typically have velcro or sock ankles. You may choose between front or side zip, although my preference is front zip. Fit is important here, too! Breeches and jods should not be baggy or loose, and jods should come down over the top of the paddock boot (length of breech doesn’t matter so long as the knee patch hits in the right spot). My favorite brand is Romfh, although Tailored Sportsman and Ariat are also popular.
Maddie Schaefer shows off properly fitting jods at Pony Finals, as well as the brown helmet/boot/glove combo I mentioned.
Boots: Children in paddock boots may choose between zip or lace up, brown or black. My preference has always been brown, but black is okay too. Tall boots should be black and traditional without any extra excitement besides branding. Tall boot fit is extremely important, so I suggest getting fitted by a professional and trying on multiple brands. Boots that are too short or too loose give an unpolished appearance. My favorite brand for paddock boots are Ariat, and some great quality tall boot brands at affordable prices are Ego7 (what I have, and LOVE!), Ariat, Tredstep, and Sergio Grasso.
Parlanti tall boots are not exactly “affordable”, but are very popular for their second skin-type fit. These boots are beautifully fitted height- and size-wise.
Gloves: Gloves must be black (or brown if you’re going to brown route in jods), and show quality. Grip is crucial. Steer clear of those knit gloves with the pimple palms…not only are they not show appropriate, but they tend to be very slippery in the hands. My personal favorite brand is Heritage, I have the Pro-Comp Show Gloves and love the fit, grip, and durability for a fantastic price. Another very popular brand is Roeckl, and they are a gorgeous show ring look with great grip but are much pricier and tend to wear quickly if you ride in them very regularly.
Hairnets/Show Bows: Hair must be constrained at horse shows, no excuses. Children in paddock boots and jods under the age of 11 should have show bows at the ends of their pigtail braids. They come in endless colors, patterns, sizes, and styles. There must always be two, they must be made for horse showing (so no cheerleading bows), and they cannot block the rider’s number. Some very popular brands are Bows-4-Shows, Ponytail Bows, and Kathryn Lily. Riders in tall boots or too old for show bows put their hair up with hairnets. The hairnets must be the same color as the rider’s hair and be put in properly. No Knot or One Knot hairnets are the best, avoid the classic hairnets with the two knots that give crazy headaches. The little bow/bun thingies often used for eventing or dressage are not appropriate.
BONUS: Hunter Derbies….
Hunter derbies are special classes that feature a two round format and are considered a formal class. Any hunter class that calls for formal attire (may also be a hunter classic) calls for a special kind of show coat called a shadbelly. The shad is basically a coat with tails, and has points that are typically yellow but may come in a variety of colors. The shadbelly must be worn with at least mid-rise breeches so that no show shirt sticks out underneath the points, and you must also have a stock tie. The tails should hit at the back of your knee, and the points should hit at your natural waist (maybe a little lower). Note, a hunter shadbelly is different from a dressage shadbelly. DO NOT WEAR A DRESSAGE SHADBELLY please I beg you and everyone begs you. Below are examples of a classic shad and a little pricier one with colored tails and points. My shadbelly is an RJ Classics and I love it.
Helmet: Same as hunters, although navy is not really appropriate. GPA and KASK are also popular.
Show Coat: Navy or black are appropriate. Fit is extremely crucial in the equitation to creating a tailored look.
Show Shirt: White only, no colors. Inside patterns are still okay, as are the decorative shirts that are only white when worn with a jacket.
Breeches/Jods: Tan only.
Boots, Gloves, and Bows/Nets: Same as hunters.
Jumpers are much more fun and forgiving, as there is no judge. However, you still always want to give off an air of class any time you’re in the show ring.
Helmet: Anything goes, although GPA, KASK, Charles Owen, and OneK are the most popular, as well as Samshield. I have a GPA Speed Air and a KASK Star Lady. My KASK is my love.
Kaley Cuoco in classy jumper bling with her KASK Star Lady, white Equiline breeches, and blingy but tasteful show coat.
Show Coat: Colors are very popular right now, such as burgundy or jackets with colors on the collar and cuffs. Black is still considered formal attire, but any colors are okay. I have a black jacket (Horseware Competition Coat) and a navy jacket with baby blue and purple on the collar (Kathryn Lily Showtech JustWorld International Jacket). Jumper jackets are typically shorter and may have metal buttons.
Horseware’s Competition Coat in the new (and very popular) color, Berry. Note the shorter fit, three metal buttons, and the zipper fronts.
Show Shirts: Again, anything goes, although white or the decorative shirts are still most popular.
Breeches or Jods: Neutral colors are okay at schooling shows, but tan is still the standard. White is for classics, Sundays, or formal attire situations. Breeches may have decorative embroidery.
My Sunday whites with sponsor embroidery!
Boots: The same rules apply, although boots with decorative details or even brown boots are permitted. For custom boots with pretty details, look to De Niro, DerDau, or La Mundial.
Gloves: Gloves are still typically black, but some deviate from that. I have Romfh CoolGrip gloves in gray that I love with a gray jacket on my white horse. Roeckl makes a black glove with red accents.
Bows/Nets: Same rules still apply. Some people ride with their hair in a ponytail or braid, but I think that looks unpolished.
So here you go! A comprehensive breakdown of what to wear so you’re not standing in the tack store completely dumbfounded (for quite as long)! I have worn a vast majority of brands and competed in all three rings, so if you have any specific questions, please feel free to comment!